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Troubled Tummy: What Your Stomach Aches Are Telling You

Troubled Tummy: What Your Stomach Aches Are Telling You

There isn’t just one type of tummy ache – there’s the mild groaning you get when you’ve missed lunch, and then there’s the excruciatingly sharp stabs that wake you up in the middle of the night, and there are those other kinds you just can’t put a finger on. Stomach pains are generally not enough to warrant a run for the emergency room, but the kind of pain you encounter will be able to tell you if you should definitely see a doctor right away. Decoding your stomach signals should also set your expectations on the treatment your doctor is most likely to recommend. Here are common tummy conditions and how to distinguish one from the other: 

1.    If you have appendicitis…

The appendix is a fingerlike pouch attached to the large intestine, and may become prone to infection or inflammation, a condition known as appendicitis. The pain is initially dull and starts around the belly button, radiating to the right side of the lower abdomen. As the appendix becomes more inflamed, it will cause more pain in this area, sometimes too much that you won’t be able to walk. When you experience right lower quadrant pain, rush to the ER right away. You will want to prevent the appendix from rupturing. When it does, it will contaminate your other gastrointestinal organs and make the condition even more complication. When a diagnosis of appendicitis is confirmed, the best thing to do is have it surgically removed.

 2.    If you acid reflux

You are most likely to feel a burning sensation between at the center of your chest, just below your breastbone. It is sudden and worsens when you eat and lie down after doing so. The pain is actually brought about by acids from your stomach shooting back up your throat. Normally, the stomach sphincter closes tightly after food bolus has entered the stomach. In this case, the sphincter is relaxed, so acids flow upwards. Over-the-counter antacids are the best relief, but if they become too frequent, a doctor may prescribe an acid-reducing medication.

 3.    If you have stomach ulcers…

This means the lining of your stomach may have corroded and has become sore. The pain is sharp and burning. It is worse when you are hungry, and is relieved by eating food. Nonsteroidal medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin worsen the ulcers, so they should be avoided for whatever pain. The doctor may prescribe medications that will coat the ulcer, kill bacteria that causes the ulcer, or may recommend surgery, depending on the size and depth of the sore.

 4.    If you have gallstones…

The gallbladder is located between the liver and small intestine. Gallstones can be as little as peas, or as large as golf balls. They are formed when cholesterol and bile hardens due to improper gallbladder emptying, or a high-cholesterol diet. If you have stones, you would feel a sharp and sudden pain on your upper abdomen, around the middle part. The pain would creep to the right, somewhere below your rib cage, and can become worse after you have eaten. You may also develop a fever or may vomit due to the pain, so it is best to see a doctor who will be able to confirm a diagnosis of gallstones through an ultrasound or a CT scan. Surgery is the best way to clear the stones, however if they are too large, the gallbladder may have to be removed.

 5.    If you have irritable bowel syndrome…

IBS is characterized by bouts of nausea and vomiting, abdominal bloating, alternating diarrhea and constipation, and lower abdomen cramps. It is brought about by a nerve malfunction in the intestines. The discomforts generally lessen when you are able to move bowels. IBS is usually treated with an anti-spasmodic drug to help your intestines regulate movement, and to relieve cramping.

 

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